Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Source Moodle is Driving Blackboard Innovation

We recently announced an integrated solution using Moodle on Amazon Web Services that provides a highly scalable option for schools and Universities running or interested in running Moodle. This give us the option to do single sign-on integration with DigitalChalk and offer a combined package that will work both inside and outside the Amazon cloud. The really interesting thing about this deal was how rapidly were were able to create this solution using open source. From inception to delivery took about six weeks to complete. Most of the development actually fell into our codebase, the open source SSO server and Moodle required very little work. For almost two years we have struggled to address SSO with the commercial market leader, Blackboard. Their building blocks toolkit were poorly documented and questions about supporting authentication outside their app architecture was addressed by telling us that Blackboard must be the primary athentication mechanism and they will provide very little to the external app.

Our announcement about Moodle on the Amazon Cloud got picked up by a prominent ZDNet blog about open source (thanks Dana!). The Blackboard World conference is going on right now and someone chimed in on comments to tell us how great the new Blackboard is. One thing is for sure, Blackboard has remained on a very Web 1.0 archtecture for many years. Feeling the heat from open source may have forced them to innovate and catch up. Disruption in the marketplace always forces innovation! (See the BB reps comments below)

Keynote speaker Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen demonstrated the power and direction of Blackboad NG at today's afternoon session of Blackboard World '08 in Las Vegas. TRULY a Next Generation product that makes any institution's 'learning' go everywhere. + It will now wrap Moodle & Satai. + Courses will be available from Facebook and other social networking sites. + Content displays on iphones, cellphones and other mobile devices + Open API's and Open Source code development for Building Blocks, Modules, add-ons and more! Blackboard is no longer a stand-alone Learning Management System---it just made "learning" ubiquitous to a new generation of users. The glimpse on their web site ( is only a peek compared to what CEO Chasen demo'd today! (not a Blackboard employee but someone who was at the presentation and more impressed with NG then ANYthing I've seen in a decade of online learning/teaching/CMS/LMS)


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Greed Tarnishes Salesforce Reputation

On Thursday I was almost giddy when I found a link to get the iPhone upgrade for my (now legacy) iPhone a day early. I upgraded iTunes and my iPhone and started installing new applications. One of the first choices (and high on the most popular list for business.. hmm... who else broke in early?) I made was to get the Salesforce app. This was particularly interesting for me because as a Salesforce user and compulsive slave to my email, I regulary access my Salesforce account on my iPhone to view incoming sales leads as soon as I am notified. The Safari browser is ok but with the scrolling and zooming required it is always slightly annoying.

The Salesforce App looked like a great find, views formatted and scaled to the iPhone screen. I installed the app and entered my account information. It gave me a message saying there was no user in the account with that ID. Odd I though, so I retyped and got the same results. Ok, I'm in a hurry. I'll just wait a day and try to access the system on Friday, after all, they aren't expecting users today right? Next day, same deal, no user in the system. I went so far as to research things on Salesforce support but found nothing. I got busy and didn't get back to it until Saturday. A Google search on Saturday gave me the sad results, I must purchase a Mobile user account to access the system. How much is a mobile user account you ask? $50.

You have to be kidding right???? The app is free but access to the system is $50?!? I get their business model but this really was a bone headed decision, I'm already paying over a $G per user per year to access the system. Accessing the system on mobile Safari cost me $0.00 extra. Salesforce is missing a great opportunity to increase my addiction to their product. Right now they own the CRM SaaS market and they have my data. I've been willing to live with a mild case of vendor lock-in because their technology is so good but now I am beginning to wonder if someone from Redmond recently got hired in their product planning department.

I smell an opportunity. Any of you hot shot Apex developers interested in building your own version of an iPhone app for Salesforce? I'll pay up to $4.99 for your app. Anyone??

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hanging out in the Cloud Cafe

There is beginning to be a nice ecosystem of service providers popping up around Cloud Computing. Today I enjoyed a conversation with John Willis, host of the Cloud Cafe podcast. We spent time discussing the future of cloud computing and where things are heading with regards to standards, cloud portability and the business model of using cloud computing.

For anyone interested in learning more about the geeky things in DigitalChalk, you will enjoy this podcast. John maintains one of the most comprehensive venues for all things cloud computing related. I'm personally excited to see him start introducing Amazon Cloud training courses on DigitalChalk.

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